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New York Appeals Court Strikes Down Noncitizen Voting Law

Payam Javan: In a significant victory for election integrity advocates and opponents of a controversial New York City law, a state appeals court declared the “Our City, Our Vote” legislation unconstitutional on February 21. The law, passed by the Democrat-controlled New York City Council in December 2021, allowed around 800,000 documented noncitizens with federal work authorizations to vote in municipal elections, including for mayor. Progressive Democrats argued it expanded voting rights, while Republicans opposed it, asserting that it undermined election integrity and violated the state Constitution. The appellate court’s ruling supports the earlier decision that the law was enacted in violation of the New York State Constitution and Municipal Home Rule Law.

The legal battle unfolded after the law was challenged in court by New York Republicans, including then-state Republican chairman Nick Langworthy. The opponents argued that the law unconstitutionally diluted the power of U.S. citizens’ votes and pledged to pursue legal action. The recent appeals court decision dealt a blow to the efforts by New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, which had defended the law and appealed the initial ruling. The decision is seen as a victory for those advocating the preservation of election integrity and the voice of American citizens.

The controversy surrounding noncitizen voting extends beyond New York. The Public Interest Legal Foundation filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the law violated the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act, claiming it was passed with racial intent. While federal laws prohibit noncitizens from voting in federal elections, some states, including New York, now explicitly ban noncitizen voting in state and local elections. The broader debate on noncitizen suffrage is exemplified by recent developments in California, where a noncitizen was appointed to serve on the San Francisco Elections Commission, sparking mixed reactions on the inclusivity of political representation for immigrants.

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